High school sports are in crisis

Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

It’s been looming on the horizon for quite a few years now, but the reality is drawing ever nearer. High school sports are in a crisis which, if not averted, could mean the demise of programs. 

The crisis is that fewer and fewer adults are stepping up to be coaches and officials, and without them, there can be no season or games. 

Newcastle is also short on bus drivers this year, which may mean the cancellations of contests if there is no one to drive the team to their destination.

Having served in two of these roles — coach and official — I have to admit that I don’t blame people for hanging up their whistles and opting to sit on the sidelines. But at the same time, it’s very sad to see the waning interest in being involved in school sporting programs.

It can feel like a very thankless job, and worse, it can be the cause of a great deal of stress between the hours spent devoted to performing all the requirements of the job and dealing with all of the backlash, which can border on abuse from outside parties.

If all a coach had to deal with is the players, and working toward putting together a successful season, it would be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding positions out there. 

There’s really nothing better than getting to spend time with a group of young people outside of the classroom who are participating in a sport they love, and working toward a common goal.

Some of the most lasting relationships are formed when you spend around 30 hours a week together, with several of those being game situations where the team mentality is at its peak.

It is those relationships, as well as a love for the game, that keeps people dedicated to the role of coach. There are drawbacks to coaching, though, which can be overwhelming.

Coaches spend hours above and beyond practice time, travel time and games. There is game film to go over, stats to be verified and distributed to interested parties, strategies to be developed which address each opponent their team will face — and all of those are hours the coach sacrifices with his or her own family.

Then, there is the reality that everyone in the stands knows they can do the job better than the coach, and many are quite vocal about calling out every perceived mistake.

Parents can also be a thorn in a coach’s side. Understandably, they want the best for their child, but harassing or bad-mouthing a coach because they feel like their kid isn’t getting the playing time they think he or she deserves is not the best approach to achieving that goal.

Well-meaning as they may be, little Johnny may simply not be at the level the kids who play above him are, and he may not be ready for the level of play that is happening on the court. 

With all that coaches must put up with, it is no wonder that there isn’t a line of people around the block vying for open coaching positions. 

The problem is that, without coaches, seasons simply won’t happen.

Right now, Newcastle High School is looking for an assistant girls’ basketball coach as well as a coach for boys’ soccer in the spring, and there is not a big rush to apply. 

Perhaps some of those who like to add their two cents regarding what coaches should be doing might want to get certified and step into those vacant positions so our sports’ programs won’t be in jeopardy of fading into nothingness.


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